Monday, July 16, 2012

Oven research

I thought I'd do a quick post to celebrate the new look for the 'little shop' blog. I finally got around to fiddling about with the template and now have something that is mine alone, basic though it is. Hope it shows alright on your display!

While in Kappabashi the other day I took the opportunity to have a look at the small commercial ovens currently available in Japan. Although sites such as have listings of second hand equipment including ovens with fantastic discounts, but I'm quite keen to get a new oven if possible as this will be the most important equipment in the shop and I'd like to have warranties, after-sales service and repair coverage if possible, should something go wrong.

Majimaya and Yoshida Kashi Douguten have a few ovens on display at around 300,000 - 500,000 JPY. The 3 models I saw were the Mic Baker, Bake Master and Garnet.

The World Seiki Mic Baker (346,665 JPY) was advertised in a Japanese baking magazine recently, promoted as a multi-purpose small-sized commercial oven. I like that it looks like you can stack them, making it a purchase that could scale with your business, and the simple squat style reminded me a little of the (much larger, brick-fronted) ovens at Levain bakery. Though perhaps Levain's ovens are modified versions of these.

I didn't like that there was no way to put racks in the Mic Baker - you'd be cooking directly on the floor of the oven. I'm thinking they are probably very good for bread, but wonder how they'd handle more delicate cakes and meringues. They are available in gas and electric, and appear to be a well known brand.

At Majimaya there was another model - the Bake Master (298,000 JPY, special price), which has 2 rack settings in place and is somewhat taller than the Mic Baker. However, I couldn't find much information or reviews of it online and I wonder why it had the "cash only" special price..

Staff at Yoshida Kashi Douguten said that the Mic Baker was their best selling small commercial oven for a long time, but that now the European-made Garnet oven is the model they are actively recommending (368,550 JPY). It had 4 positions for racks, a nice big front window and was very pretty. :) I'm afraid I got distracted talking to the staff in the shop and forgot to take a picture (doh!) but here is a picture of the leaflet they gave me.

The Garnet oven is electric, and also comes with or without a steam function (415,800 JPY for the model with steam), which should help with the crusts on the sourdoughs. The other two models looked at here also had either a steam button, or an "OP" option button which could be modified to include steam. A unique selling point of the Garnet is that the convection fan is on the side-wall of the oven rather than the back - when the fan is at the back of the oven and you open the door more of the hot air is lost as the fan blasts it out of the open door, and the idea with the Garnet is supposed to be that you retain more of the heat within the oven. I found a baking-school blog reviewing the Garnet oven (Japanese), and they appear to be quite impressed.

I'll continue my research, and look around to see the kinds of ovens other small bakeries and food businesses are using.


  1. just a question from a complete novice. I am thinking about investing in a bakery/cafe. not running it myself. I am curious about ovens. as you stated here commercial ovens cost around 40man. I realize that they are much stronger than domestic ovens, but I was thinking about using domestic ovens for versatility, initial cost and repair cost. I could get 10 domestic ovens for around 20man, I could cook 10 completely different things at the same time, and if one breaks I still have 9 left and the business wont suffer. Commercial ovens cost 20 times what a domestic oven costs, but are they really 20 times stronger and more reliable? also what would it cost for an electrician to come and repair one of these?

  2. Interesting question, Ryan!

    I gather that commercial ovens here are 200v rather than 100v, which will mean that high temperatures can be reached and sustained for longer (say the 250C needed for good crusts on bread) - my trusty home oven, which I love, can reach 250C but only for 15 minutes at a time.

    My home oven hasn't broken down on me yet, but as they aren't designed for heavy daily use, I wonder how it would fare in a shop situation. I also wonder if it would be much more expensive and wasteful electricity-wise to have a bank of mini ovens instead of one or two commercial ones - I'm afraid I don't know. I'm also unsure of repair costs, but if they are 2man each, probably the cheapest solution would be to buy another. A row of domestic machines would also be a headache for your staff to keep track of effectively, oh and to keep clean!

    The main thing that I imagine will make a difference for me is capacity - not having to bake things in multiple batches! (Grr)
    If we compare the two, my home oven at 29 x 36 cm with one shelf has 1,044 square cm whereas the "small type" Garnet oven above is 43 x 34 cm x 4 shelves = 5,848 square cm of shelf space.
    It would take 6 home ovens to match the internal capacity of one Garnet, but as you point out it would still be cheaper than 400,000 to do this.

    I think in the end it will depend on what you're planning to use them for - if you're making lots of bread all day then you'll ideally want reliable high-temp durable ovens with steam that have a large capacity to allow your bakers to output at scale. If you're only having a few cakes and dinner rolls once a day then maybe a couple of domestic ovens will get you by.

    Have a chat with some restaurant and cafe owners already in business and see what they recommend too.

    All the best!

  3. Thanks for your reply. I still haven't decided yet. It will be something to discuss with my baker when I find one. Im just trying to think outside the square. Try something that standard shops don't do and minimize my risks of going bankrupt. Once we have regular profit coming in then evaluate investing in better equipment. Not just for the ovens but for everything. The worst case scenario if the business can't make a profit, is to sell the equipment and cut your losses, reselling domestic equipment is much easier than commercial. The biggest costs are fit out, rent, labour and equipment. I have bought a shop that I will not loose on if I need to sell it, I can fit the premises out mainly myself so now it is just minimizing potential losses with labour and equipment I suppose. Maybe I and thinking too much about the worst case scenario